cover image Blue Light in the Sky and Other Stories

Blue Light in the Sky and Other Stories

Can Xue, , trans. from the Mandarin by Karen Gernant and Chen Zaping. . New Directions, $14.95 (212pp) ISBN 978-0-8112-1648-7

Can Xue (Dialogues in Paradise ) is a Chinese writer in her 50s whose pen name means "dirty snow that refuses to melt." In this enigmatic collection, she writes in the artless prose of fairy tales and employs a curious dreamlike logic in her narratives. Characters witness grotesque illnesses, dodge natural catastrophes and endlessly wander through dark labyrinths of misunderstanding. In "Snake Island," a man revisits his hometown, looking for his uncle, only to discover that his uncle is dead, his own grave has been prepared and some villagers believe he is a ghost. It's seems clear that much of Can Xue's cruel, absurdist vision—where children, like the protagonist of the title story, are betrayed by their own parents and other family members—draws on her childhood during the Cultural Revolution. The narrator of "A Negligible Game on the Journey," says of fishing nets, "Only a random string is needed—the less related, the better," and it's a deft description of Can Xue's eccentric storytelling. (June)